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Belfast City Airport wins KLM Amsterdam route

By Clare Weir

Competition is in the air after George Best Belfast City Airport clinched a new route to Amsterdam with aviation giant KLM.

That means both the City and International will now operate services to the Dutch capital.

The new daily flights, which begin in May, were announced just weeks after the City unveiled a new route to Barcelona with budget carrier Vuelling, opening up yet more European destinations for the airport.

George Best Belfast City Airport is the only airport in the UK or Ireland included in the expansion plans announced by Netherlands flag-carrier KLM, which merged with Air France in 2004 and has its major base at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam - connecting flyers to 300 destinations including Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok.

KLM's membership of the SkyTeam Alliance allies it with other major airlines.

The heat is now on Belfast International Airport, which also flies to Amsterdam and Barcelona with easyJet and which once counted KLM as a partner over a decade ago.

KLM left the Northern Ireland market in 1999, and easyJet started flights to Amsterdam from the International in January 2001.

A spokeswoman said that Belfast International Airport "continues to offer long-established direct flights to and from Amsterdam to the Northern Ireland public and Dutch visitors".

"We remain confident that easyJet will maintain the best service and most affordable fares to the travelling public long into the future," she said.

Belfast City Airport's commercial and marketing director Katy Best said imports of goods from The Netherlands were increasing and the country is one of the largest export markets in the EU for Northern Ireland manufacturers.

"KLM's connectivity to many source markets will be particularly appealing to Northern Ireland for business opportunities and tourism development," she said.

All flights will be operated by KLM Cityhopper using Fokker 70 jet aircraft, which carry up to 80 passengers.

Quotes

"KLM's Amsterdam service will improve Northern Ireland's access to important business and tourism markets in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. Air connectivity plays a crucial role in growing our economy and the access to a KLM service will provide global markets with help to ensure that Northern Ireland becomes even more accessible for those who wish to visit or do business here."

- Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster

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